Personal Examination

March 06, 2018

By Burt Williams

Some Questions I ask myself every so often as a pastor:
  1. Who am I trying to please --  my congregation or God?
  2. Who am I reading?
  3. Who am I allowing to influence me?
  4. Who am I quoting, when I write or when I speak?
  5. Who am I recommending others to read or to study?
  6. Who am I giving influence over my congregation?
  7. Am I the same person In the Pulpit as I am in the Office and at Home?
  8. Am I giving back to God in response to what he has given me?
  9. How is my family?  Am I neglecting them?
  10. Am I ok with what I am unable to complete in ministry each day / each week?
  11. Am I doing harm anywhere in my ministry / my personal life?
  12. Where am I doing well in my ministry / my life?
  13. Am I staying in love with God?
 
I believe in personal examination and these questions help me. You may have other questions, and I hope you have some.  John Wesley was in constant self-examination, and as he rode around writing in his journal, he was most often asking himself to identify where he was in relationship with God -- writing down when he prayed, when he sinned, when evil thoughts came to him, and so forth.

If our lives are to be lived with the goal of moving toward Christian perfection, then we need to have some way of checking our course. Otherwise we wander aimlessly.

As I get older, I also understand the General Rules of the church better and how they work in my life.  Do No Harm gets more meaningful as I am less worried about people getting upset about little things in ministry and more concerned about their soul.  To say it another way, I am less concerned about their immediate comfort than their long-term spiritual health.  I also get that those two states of being are often at odds.

Likewise, I am more comfortable that Doing Good can make others uncomfortable.  There are times that just my presence as a pastor will make others uncomfortable, because of who I represent.  There are those who are disconcerted with the nearness of the Holy  -- or of just the perception of it.  (Likewise, there are those that find my presence as a pastor comforting especially at times of crisis.)

And Staying in Love with God is about my relationship to Him.  I recently used the example of the Love of Husband and Wife as an example of this.  When I fell in love with Sharon it changed me, my attitude, my behavior, my habits, because I wanted to please her.  But, Staying in Love is harder than falling in love; just google the American divorce rates if you doubt me.  Staying in love requires work and cooperation.  Doing the things that please one another is hard work, but over time they become habits, second nature.  While there is always work to do, it does become easier, at least it has for us around year 20 or so.  Staying in Love with God is similar by remembering His great love for us that was and is incarnate in Jesus Christ. By examining our response to that love constantly, we find ourselves building the habits that bring us closer to Him and that help over time (a lot of time) bring us nearer to Christian Perfection.

So ask yourself some questions this Lent and maybe beyond and see how it stretches you and if it deepens your relationship with God.

Burt Williams is the pastor of North UMC in Morganton, NC
 
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